So She Fell

Chapter Nine: The Pretender

"What if I say I'm not like the others? What if I say I'm not just another one of your plays?"

XXXXX

"Lord Malak told us you were still alive, but none of us dared believe it!" The acolyte slapped a hand to her cheek, obviously shocked.

Connan shrugged. "What can I say? I'm hard to kill."

Another acolyte laughed. "Don't be so cocky, Revan. Lord Malak also told us what happened to you; what you have become."

Juhani raised an eyebrow. "Oh? And what has she become?"

The third and last acolyte narrowed his eyes. "You are a shell of what you once were."

I am not a shell.

Something dark flared through Connan as she felt her own eyes darken and glare. She ignited her lightsaber at her side and slashed it, sending sparks as it scraped the ground. "We'll see about that when I clean the floor with your faces."

Jolee chuckled. "I hate to break this to you, lass, but that wouldn't make the floor any cleaner."

XXXXX

Damn it, something was wrong. Carth could feel it. He paced outside the ship, making a small trail in the sand after a while. At every sound his head jolted up, watching the beach carefully for any sign of Connan or the others.

Juhani and Jolee had been gone for hours now, and none of them had returned.

I knew I shouldn't have listened to Connan. Carth scowled to himself, returning to his pacing. I should have stayed with her. He ran a hand through his hair and continued his pacing.

He had to have known she was going to pull something like this. It wasn't like the signs hadn't been there. As soon as she'd switched languages and started speaking that strange language, bells started clanging in Carth's head. Flags went up and alarms blared. Something's wrong! They shouted at him. Something isn't right!

As soon as he thought that, Connan had turned around with that fake smile and asked Mission and Carth to leave her alone with the Rakata Elders. Planning the attack on the Temple, my foot. She'd looked right at him and lied about where she was going to be, and he knew she was lying.

And what had he done?

Carth—in all his intelligence—left her there.

Carth continued his pacing. Connan almost went inside the Temple by herself. If Juhani or Jolee hadn't been there—if they hadn't acted on whatever told them about Connan's plans—

Carth's mind instantly went on a different tangent. Thinking about the "if they hadn'ts" would only make Carth feel more guilty.

But still, Connan was nearly forced to enter the Temple all alone. Carth still wasn't one-hundred percent sure, but he thought that going in alone wasn't totally Connan's idea. He'd seen her tense at one point in the conversation, and right after that, she'd switched languages and tried her best to hide what she was talking about.

But Carth could still tell. Her hand dragged through her head and stopped halfway, and she'd pressed down on top of her head; Connan's universal sign for "I don't want to do this".

He knew that. Carth knew that's what that meant, and still he'd left her by herself.

She could have gone inside that Dark Sided building by herself. For all anyone knew, Malak himself was inside that Temple, and Carth just let her go.

Stop that. He commanded himself. She didn't go alone, in the end. Don't beat yourself up over that.

Well, okay. She wasn't by herself anymore, anyway. He didn't have to worry about her being alone. And besides, from what Connan had explained from the Rakata Elders, only Jedi could enter the Temple, so it wasn't like he could have followed her anyway. Carth could take a deep breath. There was no use in feeling guilty about something he couldn't have prevented.

What if she got hurt? What if she'd been captured? What if she'd been backed into a corner, and no one had been there to protect her?

Carth's pacing stopped.

Oh, bad thoughts. Sickening thoughts. The very idea that Connan was alone and hurt made Carth's heart ache. If Connan got hurt—if she was unable to return on her own—if she died

Carth didn't know what he'd do. His mind drew a blank. He just couldn't see Connan helpless and defeated, even in his mind, and trying to force himself to made his heart lurch as if it were to burst from his chest.

Wait, he told himself. Calm down. Take a deep breath. Nothing's actually happened that you know of. There's no reason to get panicky.

His path reset, and his pace started again, and his mind erased those thoughts from his head. It did no good to fret about something that might happen, not something that has happened.

XXXXX

Connan raced up the Temple summit and out of doors. Flinching in the sunlight, she held a hand up to take in her surroundings and estimate the distance left to the disruptor shield.

A lone dark figure stood in her way. Connan gawked openly, feeling a mix between shock and confusion.

What is she doing here?

Jolee and Juhani came to a screeching halt next to Connan, nearly heaving as hard as she was in their exertion to keep up.

Juhani let out a gasp of surprise at the woman blocking their path.

"Bastila."

Bastila—pale, Sith robe-cloaked, angry looking Bastila—ignored Juhani completely, walking forward and keeping her eyes solely on Connan.

"Revan." Bastila called, almost spat, Connan's old name out as if it wounded her to speak it. "I knew you'd come for me. Malak thought you might be afraid to enter the Temple again, but he doesn't know you like I do. Not anymore. Not since you've changed."

The seething tone brought back many feelings that seemed foreign to Connan. She didn't know how to process them inside her mind. Her subconscious took hold of these emotions and ran wild with them; supplying her with information. Something now sparked within her mind in warning signals.

Connan paled, her eyes widening with realization.

"Oh, Bastila. No."

Bastila smiled toothily; an expression that once would look honest and innocent now looks simply sinister and sarcastic. "Oh, yes."

Juhani blinked and shook her head, obviously not understanding the mini-conversation between the two. "Quickly, Bastila. Come with us! We have to escape before Malak arrives." She held out a hand to the woman standing in front of them.

Bastila reached out her own hand to clasp Juhani's. Connan snatched Juhani's hand away before Bastila could harm the Cathar.

"Don't touch her." Connan warned. "I don't think escape is on her mind."

"Escape?" Bastila repeated, spitting the word as callously as she had Connan's name. "You don't understand. I have sworn allegiance to Lord Malak of the Sith; I am no longer a pawn of the Jedi Council."

Connan laughed darkly. "So now you're a pawn for Malak instead?"

"Don't provoke her, lass." Jolee murmured, watching Bastila's face darken.

"Of course you would not understand; your memories taken, your identity completely rearranged into someone different, your whole life in tatters, left with no choice but to obey. You are nothing but a machine programmed by the Jedi Council to do their will. You are the ultimate pawn."

Connan ignored the stabbing in her gut. She'd lived with it long enough now that it was almost painless. Besides, by now she knew the barbs were only in her imagination; no one else thought of her as a droid or a ticking time-bomb, so there was no reason for her to think of herself as such.

"I don't know what you mean." Connan shrugged, leaning all her weight on one leg and shifting so she slouched while standing; a maneuver that used to annoy Bastila endlessly on their adventures. "Last time I checked, I was the only choice the Council had to go after Malak, but they never approved of my interpretations of their teachings. I am no one's pawn."

"Surely you know what I mean, Revan." Connan winced at the name. "Look at what the Council did to you; they turned you into their puppet. The same thing they do to all who are truly strong in the Force."

"I am not a puppet."

Connan was ignored. "They speak of the Dark Side as if it is something to be feared. But in reality their only goal is to manipulate those who are strong in the Force. The fear of the Dark Side is a tool to maintain control."

Connan shook her head, now a little anxious. Bastila was sounding completely serious; like she knew exactly what she was talking about. But that wasn't possible. She couldn't have actually turned, could she? There was no way this was actually happening.

"You don't believe that, Bastila. You don't."

Bastila sneered. "Why do you think the Jedi forbid you and Malak from joining the Mandalorian Wars? They knew you would realize your true potential and break free of their domination."

At this Connan felt her stomach grow cold. "They forbid it because their teaching advised against it, and Revan and Malak were going against their teaching."

"How strange to hear you talk of yourself in the third person." Bastila snickered at Connan's flushed expression. "You don't believe this, Revan. You know the truth now, just as you knew it back then. They forbid you to go to war because you used to be the greatest Jedi in the galaxy, but once you understood how powerful you actually were, you would leave altogether, and your power would have been lost to the Jedi Council."

"Bastila, this can't be true. You can't believe this."

Connan was again ignored, and Bastila's lecture continued. "Malak has shown me how the Jedi Council has been using me the same way they once tried to use you. They've been holding me back because they knew one day I would surpass them all."

Connan let out a shaky breath. "Okay, Bastila. The joke is over. We came all this way just to find you. You're really, actually, seriously scaring me right now."

Bastila snorted, a sound so vulgar Connan had never heard her use it before. "I resisted at first. I endured the Sith torments with the passionless serenity of a true Jedi, emptying my mind. But after a week of endless tortures I finally saw the truth. Malak forced me to acknowledge my anger and pain. He showed me the liberating power of these emotions. Then he made me see how the Jedi Council has denied me what is mine by right!"

"Anger and pain that Malak put there himself!" Connan cried. "Don't you see? He created your pain and then made you submit to it!"

"I am not through speaking."

Dread, tinged with fear, now traced Connan's thoughts. Bastila was the best of us, and look how far she's fallen….

"The Jedi Council gladly used my Battle Meditation in the wars, but they still treated me like a child—like an inferior. They were jealous of my power… of what I could become!" A sneer entered Bastila's voice, hinting that this was not the brainwashing of only a few weeks. This had been on Bastila's mind for quite some time. "They wanted me to bow and call them Master and follow their Code and obey their every order. But all the while they were exploiting my Battle Meditation for their own use!"

"Are you serious, Bastila?" Connan cried, hurt enough now to lash out with her own words. "You whine of them treating you like a child and pout when they ask you to use you rare powers to save the galaxy from certain annihilation?" Connan laughed out her disbelief. "Can you say petulance? What lies you've been told."

Bastila cocked an eyebrow and pointed the finger straight at Connan, who flinched inwardly. "Lies? You are living the lie, Revan. The Jedi Council made you into something you are not; they programmed you to be their slave. You used to be Revan, Master of the Sith, but no longer. You are simply a pawn of the Jedi Council and the Republic they serve… like I was until Malak freed me from their shackles!"

Then Bastila straightened her stance, and set her eyes on Connan with a look that Connan did not appreciate. She knew that look.

Connan fell into a defensive crouch.

Bastila examined Connan closely, studying her up and down. "A pity the power you once had is too diluted in you. You could have been strong as I am now… stronger, even." Bastila ignited her lightsaber, both edges of the double-bladed sword glowing dark red. "But that will never happen, now. With the power of the Star Forge, Malak will destroy the Republic and conquer the galaxy. And I will be the apprentice at his side—after I prove my worth by killing you."

Her left hand flew into the air, using a gust of the Force to knock Jolee and Juhani back from the battle and to the other side of the roof. Then she threw her saber straight at Connan.

Connan fell to the ground, letting the lightsaber whizz past her as she landed. She leapt to her feet and blocked another attack from Bastila, who kicked her back and whirled around to knock Jolee off of his feet. She thrust her hand toward Juhani, sending her sailing across the room before turning back to Connan and blocking just before the Jedi's attack would take off her head.

"Bastila, stop!" Connan pleaded, deflecting a vicious attack from Bastila's saber and ramming her head into Bastila's, effectively knocking the dazed woman backward. Connan whirled around and rammed the hilt of her saber into Bastila's stomach. The woman doubled over.

Then she was back on her feet and slashing at Connan with an enraged cry.

Connan held her saber out and held on as tightly as possible. Bastila pressed down as Connan pushed up, both trying to gain the upper hand.

"Bastila, please. Don't do this."

Bastila didn't reply. She pushed harder at Connan, nearly making Connan lose her grip. Connan resettled her hands and tried to push Bastila up.

All right, that's it.

Power enveloped Connan; a dark power that ran through her veins and gave her strength. It was brutal, potent, and drove adrenaline into her system to propel her forward. Her vision became ever-so-slightly tinged in red, but instead of confusing her, the change boosted her confidence. It was as if the Force was tightly coiled around her, charged with so much energy that it nipped at her and kept her awake.

For the first time in Connan's memory, she could taste power. It sat on the tip of her tongue; a mix between the metallic flavor of blood and the rusty tang of metal. It rolled through her fingertips, almost bursting through without her permission in its anxiety to be let loose.

Connan smashed her head into Bastila's and did just that.

A bolt of lightning flew effortlessly from Connan's hand before she could command it to. Bastila threw her saber in the way, absorbing the shock. Then Connan grasped tighter onto her lightsaber and slashed offensively at Bastila, using brute strength plus a bit of Force Push to create a powerful assault.

Bastila blocked, but barely. Connan twirled around her and slammed her hilt into Bastila's back, knocking Bastila forward. Before Connan could follow up with another attack, Bastila turned and kicked Connan square in the stomach.

Connan bent over, holding her stomach. She cringed as Bastila held up her dark red saber to bring it down on Connan's neck, and she held her own blue lightsaber up to block.

A green saber entered the mix, catching Bastila's saber and knocking it backward. Connan stood up and let out a breath as Jolee stood between her and Bastila.

"Thanks."

Bastila reentered the fight, aiming for Jolee's stomach with one side of her saber and at Connan's legs with the other. Connan leapt over Bastila's saber as Jolee blocked and returned his own attack. Connan reached out and wrapped an arm around Bastila's neck as Juhani rushed forward to start her attack.

Then Bastila let out a cry, and all three of them were blown backward.

Connan hit the wall with a crack, and slid to the ground. The intense power she'd been feeding from earlier fled from her then, draining her energies as it left. She slumped against the wall before even attempting to stand to try and regain some of her lost vigor.

Whatever power she'd had a moment ago, she suddenly wished she had it back. If she reclaimed some of her previous strength, maybe she wouldn't feel so vulnerable at the moment. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath to steady herself.

I wish I knew where that power had come from.

She rubbed her head as she stood up again, calling her saber back to her and watching Bastila warily. The woman had a wry smirk on her face, an expression so foreign to Bastila's features that Connan had absolutely no idea what the woman could be thinking.

"Now what, Bastila?"

The Dark-Sided woman merely chuckled under her breath. "You are stronger than I would have thought possible, after what the Jedi Council did to you."

Connan stiffened at the words, but didn't reply. She held her ground and looked over at Jolee, a few yards to her left. He kept his eyes on Bastila, watching her for any sign that she might attack again.

"It seems that Malak was wrong—the power of the Dark Side is not lost to you after all, Revan."

Connan cringed. "I'm not Revan."

Bastila gave Connan a placating look. "Of course you are, Revan."

At this Connan snarled and shook her head. "Revan, Revan, Revan! Stop calling me that!" She stomped her foot and gave Bastila her best glare. "My name is Connan Frai. I'm a smuggler. My homeworld was blown in half because of civil war while I was out on a run."

"You can deny who you are; Revan, but you are only fooling yourself. I know the truth. I have seen the shadows in your mind."

Shadows?

But no, Connan had seen the shadows in her own mind, as well. When Sunry had been set free, Connan wanted nothing more than to kill him right then; his remorseless tone and expressions sent all kinds of Dark thoughts and hatred through her.

That power that I used before… was that part of the shadows?

Was that the Dark Side I used?

The thought frightened her. She straightened herself and shook her head. "There are no shadows in my mind."

Bastila laughed. "Come now, Revan. I can see your mind. Remember: I was there when you nearly died in the trap set by the Jedi Council. I used the Force to preserve your life, Revan. We are forever linked by my actions on that bridge!"

"Oh, is that what you want? Gratitude? You want me to thank you for not letting me die and instead wiping my memory clean and leading me on throughout the galaxy thinking I was someone else?"

"You are smarter than that, Revan. You know what it is I want."

Connan huffed and crossed her arms. "You want to kill me, apparently." She sneered. "First you try to save my life then you try to take it. I do wish you'd make up your mind, Bastila."

"I saved your life because the Jedi do not kill their prisoners." Bastila admitted. "I was acting like a tool of the Jedi Council—as you are now. But now I see how the Jedi used us both."

Connan frowned. "What are you suggesting?"

Bastila smiled, straightened, and took a step toward Connan in a nonthreatening way. "The Council tried to exploit the bond between us. They hoped I would draw out your memories to lead them to the Star Forge. We were slaves to their will—like all who follow the Jedi Code!"

"You know that isn't true, lass." Jolee implored. "Finding the Star Forge was a necessity. The Sith would bring down the galaxy if they didn't find it."

Bastila scoffed. "So says the man who has personally flouted the rules of the Jedi for his own selfish use."

"The Jedi Code is a set of guidelines, Bastila. They are set to keep people from straying and ending up somewhere alone and trapped."

Bastila barked out a laugh. "I am hardly trapped, old man." She straightened her shoulders and sent Connan a cocky smile. "In fact, I would say I've been liberated. And I have you to thank, Revan."

Connan froze. An terrible thought flashed into her head, and now that she'd thought it, the persistent idea wouldn't leave.

I didn't—It's not my fault. Is it?

"I don't want to hear this." Connan backed against the wall, running a hand through her hair and tugging out her ponytail.

"You must hear this, Revan." Bastila pushed, taking another step forward. "In our shared visions of the Star Maps, I felt the so called 'taint' within you."

No.

"I resisted it at first, but now I embrace the power of the Dark Side."

Don't say it.

"Your Dark Side."

Connan felt her stomach turn.

It's not true. She told herself. It's not true.

Connan took a deep breath. She'd spent the last few weeks wallowing in this self-pity that was now steadily eating away at her. Now that she'd gotten rid of it, it decided to return tenfold in the form of a fallen Bastila.

She knew what Bastila was talking about. When Uthar Wynn, the newly deceased headmaster of the Sith Academy on Korriban, mentioned a dark seed inside Connan, she'd been alerted to its presence. When Dustil proved to be a nasty little brat and threatened to kill his own father, that dark seed grew, making her force herself to not strike out at him. He was Carth's lost son. Killing Dustil was definitely a bad thing. The only reason she hadn't was because she knew it wouldn't have helped the situation.

She'd felt her own Dark Side. She knew what anger and malevolence Bastila was talking about. She had thought she was making a lot of headway; not allowing her past to mess with her judgment or her morale. Connan started to actually think she was starting to put the past behind her. No longer would she hurt anyone with her past.

She hadn't considered that Bastila might be able to feel her Dark Side through their bond, and that she might succumb to it herself.

I'm going to be sick.

"Oh, my Gods." Connan leaned against the wall, no longer convinced her legs could hold her up by themselves. Her stomach churned. She bit her tongue to keep from actually throwing up. "Bastila, I—"

"Don't you dare apologize, Connan." Jolee snapped. "Bastila's falling has nothing to do with any choice you've made recently. It has everything to do with her own choices."

Bastila sneered at Jolee, obviously irritated at the interruption. "A choice I would not have had to make if her own Dark Side had not been pushing and pushing at me all the while as I was tortured and persuaded."

"That's not true, lass, and you know it." Jolee interrupted. "I will admit that spending time around whatever Dark Side that might or might not be hidden within Connan may have acclimated you to the presence of the Dark side. But whatever Dark Side you took hold of, it was nothing but your own."

"Whether or not you two are bonded, it was your choice to fall to the Dark Side. You cannot blame that on Connan." Juhani added.

Bastila whirled around in a fury to the other two Jedi. "I wasn't aware that I was speaking to the two of you," She snapped. "For the moment, I am speaking to Revan." Then she turned back to Connan, her voice once again calm and tempting. "Those two don't know what they are talking about. It was your Dark Side that I embraced, and you know it. You've felt it yourself. The anger; the overwhelming desire to kill whatever is making you angry."

Connan shuffled her feet. When she didn't reply, Bastila went on. "You've felt these emotions, Revan. I have felt them through you. Even before, in that battle we fought, I felt it. Why else could you have turned the tables around on me so quickly?"

So I was right. That power… it was the Dark Side.

Connan swallowed her guilt. "Why are you saying this?" She snapped. "What are you trying to do? Are you trying to make me feel guilty that you fell to the Dark Side? To make me understand that not only have I messed up my own life, I've ruined others with the actions I no longer remember doing?"

Bastila crossed her arms and shook her head. "You haven't messed up at all, Revan."

Connan's head shot up and her eyes widened. "What—"

"Revan," Bastila was close enough now to reach out and gently lay a hand on Connan's shoulder. "I understand where you're coming from, believe me. Right now, you've been taught to avoid the Dark Side at all costs; it's been drilled into your head for so long that you feel as if it's been your conviction all along." At this Bastila smirked. "But our bond has not been broken yet, Revan. I could feel you as we were fighting. I know you tapped into your Dark power, and I could feel your satisfaction as it showed you how much stronger it could make you."

Jolee snatched Bastila's hand away from Connan's shoulder. "Now hold on just a minute—"

Bastila yanked her own hand from Jolee's grasp but otherwise ignored him. She kept her eyes on Connan.

She took another step forward, making Connan feel more crowded than ever. "You deserve to be the true Master of the Sith, not Malak. I see this now!"

XXXXX

A tremor passed through Carth.

Carth shuddered and looked up. He set down the datapad he'd been looking over and stood. He took a few steps away from the Hawk, and looked around.

He didn't know what he was looking for. He'd suddenly felt a shock, like he'd been asleep for a long time and something had jolted him awake, not only jarring him into a completely different mindset but startling him at the same time.

Carth wasn't completely sure how he knew, but he was sure he knew what that meant. It sent terrible shivers down his spine and made his eyes widen.

Something had happened to Connan.

Trepidation filled Carth as he continued to pace, wiping the sweat off of his brow.

In the heat of the day, Carth had stripped himself of his jacket and his shirt, opting instead to wait outside in his undershirt. He ran both hands through his hair as he thought out his options.

He had to go after Connan. He wanted to go after Connan. She could be hurt. She could be dead. There were so many things that could have gone wrong while he wasn't there and the thought was making him worry more than if he'd actually been there with her.

"Wow, Carth. Calm down." Mission's voice came from the ramp. Carth looked toward her, barely registering her smirk and her crossed arms. "I know you're worried about Connan being somewhere without you, but jeez, you lost puppy, it's only been about three or four hours."

Carth stopped his pacing long enough to glare. "I am not a lost puppy." He growled. "I'm just—I don't know where she is. I don't know if something's happened. I don't—"

Mission laughed. "You're worse than Æliesha is. Are we going to have to lock you in your room so you don't try to follow her, as well?"

Carth simply continued to glare. After a moment of silence Mission huffed out a sigh. "Look, Carth. Nothing's going to happen. If you recall, Connan isn't a very big fan of dying. Bad for your health, she says."

The familiar saying brought a tiny smile to Carth's face, causing Mission to grin. "So cheer up. She'll be back with the other two and then we'll go kick some Sith tail!"

"I guess…." Carth scratched the back of his head before continuing his pace.

"There's nothing we can do, anyway." Mission continued. "We can't even wait with the Elders because we can't understand them. So sit down next to me and relax. They'll be back soon."

When Carth didn't reply, Mission growled and sat roughly on the ramp, patting the space next to her. "I wasn't asking, old man. You're going to give yourself a heart attack and then Connan will have to come back to a dead Carth."

Grudgingly, Carth sat and took a breath. She was right, anyway. There was nothing he could really do but wait it out and hope that whatever happened hadn't hurt her.

He surprised himself with how much he really didn't want to see Connan hurt.

XXXXX

What?

Connan ripped away from Bastila, putting several feet between them. She opened her mouth to reply, but nothing came. She stared at Bastila in complete shock, unable to respond.

"Join with me, Revan." Bastila prompted. "Come with me now. Together we can destroy your old apprentice. Join with me and reclaim your lost identity!"

Connan once again opened her mouth, this time ready to spit out hell no, I'd never do anything with you, leave me alone, get out of my way.

And then Bastila's gaze shifted slightly on Connan's face, and the power came flooding back into her.

Connan gasped this time with how much of it filled her. She felt like she could lift the Ebon Hawk from its resting place on the other side of the island and crush it if she wanted. She felt that she could force the Elder Temple to crumble around the Elders' ears.

But now "this power" was no longer nameless. The Dark Side was what Connan was feeling. It wrapped around her, beckoning to her to agree.

"What are you talking about?" Connan asked, her voice breathier and more nervous than she would like to admit. "I—How can I reclaim my identity if I can't even remember it?"

One glance at Jolee told Connan that this was not what he'd wanted to hear. His stare turned steely, and he sighed and shook his head as if he were disappointed.

Indignation rose up in Connan. What? She thought to herself, aiming her frigid remarks toward Jolee. It's a legitimate question. Don't look at me like I've just signed your death sentence.

In the back of her mind, Connan distinctly heard another thought poke through to the surface, one that she didn't recall thinking herself.

It would be a shame to have to kill him.

Whatever reaction Jolee had to Connan's reply, Bastila seemed to think the opposite. She gave Connan a patient smile. "Your mind was too badly damaged to ever fully restore your memories. But your power, your strength of will, the essence of whom and what you are: these things still remain!"

Another wave of power crashed over Connan, and she had to suppress a shudder. Whatever it was that was giving her this power, she loved it. She literally felt like she could do anything she wanted so long as this unrestrained, raw power rushed through her.

She looked at her hands, not surprised to find them shaking with excitement. This is who I am?

No. No, it can't be. I'm more than just raw power. I have to be. There are other things—important things—left in the galaxy that are happier without the Dark Side powers.

Something inside Connan laughed at her feeble attempt to convince herself. Oh? It asked her. And what might those "important things" be?"

Connan frowned. Well…. There had to be something.

"Connan, don't listen to her." Juhani interrupted. She turned to Bastila and gave her a hard, calculating stare. "The essence of who she is is different than what choices she made in the past. The choices she's made now, as Connan, are what define her now."

"That is not true, and I think you know it." Bastila snarled. "This is yet another trick to try and regain some Jedi control over a powerful woman who is teetering on the edge of a life-changing decision."

Jolee barked out a laugh. "And how is your coercive speech not considered manipulation?"

"Revan, once long ago you defied the Jedi Council, freeing yourself from their control. You claimed your rightful title of Dark Lord of the Sith. Together we can defeat Malak and take back what it yours!"

Connan took a few more steps back, farther away from everyone. The three others on the roof—two Jedi and one Sith—all stared at Connan, waiting for her to come to a decision.

"I can't—" Connan cleared her throat and wrapped her arms around herself protectively. "I can't, Bastila."

The Dark Side power whirling around Connan spurned her, lashing out at her by tightly coiling itself around her, nearly drowning her in its strength.

All this power. She had to let it out somewhere. She clenched her fists to try and keep the power bottled up.

Juhani seemed to take Connan's answer as a good sign. She held her hand out to a miffed Bastila once again. "Bastila, it is not too late for you to be saved. The teachings of the Jedi can lead you from the Dark Side back into the Light and a true understanding of the Force."

Bastila turned her wrath onto Juhani. "You are beneath my contempt, Juhani. When you felt the power of the Dark Side, you fled to a cave like some cowering animal! You know nothing of the Force or its true potential." She turned back to Connan with one final plea. "But you, Revan—the power of the Dark Side is yours to command. You can use it to destroy Malak. With my help, you could rule over the entire galaxy!"

Connan shook. With all eyes upon her, she shrank back into herself and thought.

This Dark Side Bastila spoke of… it was different than what the Jedi Council said it would be like. They explained something brutal, something twisted and cruel; something that would seize control of a person and maul the soul and spirit until nothing but a monstrous being was left, devoid of both conscience and forethought. This felt like maybe an old, over-eccentric friend returning after a long time away. It swirled around her and pleaded with her and promised her oh so many things and granted power and pulsed it through her veins and sharpened her senses and kept her mind focused on the task at hand—becoming stronger, of course—and practically begged her to give in.

And really, Connan persuaded to herself, what did she really have to lose? The end would be no different. Malak would be dead and Connan would be just as clueless about her past life as before. There would really be nothing different, other than the substantial amount of power she'd hold.

"Don't do this, lass." Jolee murmured.

"Shut up, old man! Your time is over."

Really, what do I stand to lose? Connan asked herself, becoming more confident with her decision. She unclenched her fists, letting the power crackle through slightly in the form of sparks. They reached out past her fingertips and arched in the air toward Juhani, who stared calmly as the electric power dissipated before it got close enough to burn.

As if to thank her for allowing its small bit of freedom, the Dark Side crashed another tidal wave of power through her. Connan gasped out loud. The power… there was so much of it. How could one person hold so much?

They couldn't, Connan decided. She was going to burst sooner or later if she didn't expend this energy. It would give her a reason to tear the place up and inspect the powers of the Dark Side.

It was only courteous of her, after all. If Carth had given her a reason to stay on his side, she might as well check out Bastila's reason for changing to her side, and then—

Carth.

Connan lashed out at the Dark Side power instantly, banishing it from her without hesitation as her eyes widened and she shook her head.

"No!" Connan shrieked, jolting backward and slamming her back into the wall opposite Bastila. "I won't. I won't!"

Oh my gods, I nearly—I almost said yes….

"I am not Revan." Connan continued, drawing strength into herself the more resolute she became. "No matter who I was back then, I am who I am now. The choices I've made since meeting everyone, since the beginning, are the choices that define me." She stood straight and stared Bastila in the eye. "You do not get to define me based on what I was in the past. I get to define me based on what I've done now."

Bastila once again shifted her glance at Connan as another wave of Dark Side power enveloped her. "Come now, Revan. Don't—"

Connan swatted the power away without a second thought. "Shut up, Bastila. Nothing you can say will convince me. Ever."

Bastila's eyes narrowed. She opened her mouth to retort. Connan tensed and glared.

Jolee stepped in front of Connan. How he got so close without her knowing, she wasn't sure, but he was right in between her and Bastila, his arms spread wide, protecting Connan. Juhani stepped beside Connan and linked their arms together in a silent show of strength.

"I think the lass has made her point, Bastila." Jolee stated, his voice solid as a rock. "You can let up with your Dark Side influence, now. I'm sure it won't have an effect on her anymore."

Connan tensed. Before she could ask Jolee what he was talking about, Bastila cut in. "You are a pathetic fool, Connan. Together we could have defeated Malak and ruled over an Empire. Now I will be at Lord Malak's side instead." She sneered at the three Jedi. "You will be crushed with the Republic and all the fools who bow down to the Jedi Council! No one can stand against the power of the Star Forge and the Sith Fleet!"

She turned and ran toward the end of the roof, where her shuttle sat idly waiting for her. Jolee took a step to follow her, only to slide backward thanks to a shield placed by Bastila. Before he could take it down, she was gone.

Connan took a deep breath. Now that Bastila was gone and the immediate threat was taken care of, Connan's mortification came back at full power.

She turned green, clearly disgusted with herself. She slid her arm out from Juhani's and staggered away from her.

Now with both of the Jedi staring at her curiously, Connan placed a hand over her mouth and leaned against the wall.

I hate myself. She thought. I almost became what I've been so worried sick about becoming. I was this close to actually—to—She took a deep, faltering breath. I can't even think it!

"Guys," She started. "I'm so, so—"

Jolee wrapped his arms around her and pulled Connan into a tight hug. Without hesitating, Connan returned the gesture, gripping him tightly.

"Do. Not. Apologize." Jolee stressed. "That was low of her. Exploiting your emotions about your past life and then trying to press the Dark Side into you while you were not expecting it? Not even a true Sith would have done that."

"What do you mean, 'trying to press the Dark Side into her'?" Juhani asked, frowning.

Jolee looked over at the confused Cathar. "Surely you felt it. Bastila was using their bond to try and press her Dark Side influence onto Connan. Call it a Force Persuade, but it's more complicated than that." Adjusting his grip on the horrified Jedi in his arms, he continued. "Had she succeeded she would have basically brainwashed Connan into becoming Revan again."

Connan pulled away from Jolee, still looking ashamed and nauseated, as if she hadn't heard Jolee at all. I nearly killed them. She thought. I was seriously considering it.

Standing up straight, Connan made her way to the other side of the roof. "Let's get this field turned off and get the hell out of here."

"Connan?" Juhani asked, taking a step forward and reaching out a hand, as if to pull Connan back to them. "Are you all right?"

Connan took an unsteady breath and looked around. "No, but thanks for asking."

XXXXX

I know, I know. I've been gone for a while. I burned out. My mind drew a blank. Extreme writer's block. Mass Effect 2 saved me.

I should actually update ESB this Sunday, too. I'm going to try my hardest to get that done. I always lose my concentration toward the ends of these stories.

And based on my playlist, it looks like I have four more chapters to go. So fourteen chapters in all. That's a lot more than the 5 I predicted at the beginning. ^.^;;

… … … ….And my internet is now down, so I can't update this when I finish it at 8:09 this morning. Ah, well. It's the thought that counts.

Amme Moto